June 2009
(Volume 12, Number 3)
ISSN  1449-2091

Michael Michie

Tiwi designs by Jennifer Coombs
Munupi Arts & Crafts Association,
Pirlangimpi, Melville Island, NT

Indigenous Science Links






Keeping Aboriginal knowledge from flying the coup

Got a Stone Brush Curlew on your tracks? Be careful, something bad might be about to happen. What about a Willie Wagtail? Rug up, it’s about to get cold.

Civilisations throughout history have looked to birds for special signs and wonders. Take a cursory glance at Western culture and you will see the same thing. The raven, for example, was considered to be Apollo’s messenger; while if a sailor killed an albatross, he would be plagued by bad luck.

But as society changes, cultural signs such as these risk being lost. This is perhaps more acute for Australian Aboriginal societies as they undergo dramatic change from their recent hunter-gatherer past.

In an effort to preserve this knowledge, Charles Darwin University adjunct researcher Dr Myf Turpin and senior Aboriginal language speakers have documented the social and environmental signs that Central Australian Aboriginal people have used for many years. These include meanings attributed to plants, animals and celestial phenomena.

She started her research by sourcing the meanings of plants, animals and other objects and events outlined in Aboriginal language dictionaries. Then, in collaboration with Aboriginal language speakers and linguists, she created a comprehensive database of cultural signs spanning many Central Australian Aboriginal languages.

“Across four of the five language groups that we studied, there was one thing in common: a significant degree of mythology and cultural knowledge linked to birds. They tell people where food is available, warn of bad events, or signal when family is coming,” she said.

As a resource to teach and maintain this knowledge, she developed bird posters in four languages from regions north and east of Alice Springs: Anmatyerr, Kaytetye, Alyawarr, and Arrernte. The posters include a photograph of the bird, its Aboriginal, scientific and common name, and information about what it signifies with an English translation.

Most birds have similar meanings across the language groups, but Dr Turpin found that for some birds the meanings differ.

“Sometimes this is because a bird has a number of different calls. When the Southern Boobook calls, it can signal danger in the river to Arrernte people; for the Anmatyerr it signals that visitors are coming; for the Kaytetye it heralds the oncoming of summer; and for the Alyawarr it is a sign that bush potatoes are around.”

While she has not attempted to predict what signs might one day be forgotten, Dr Turpin is confident many will remain.

“I think these things will stay significant as long as people are active in their land. Take, for instance, the ring we sometimes see around the sun and the moon. It signals that rain is coming, and in many Aboriginal languages the name literally translates as ‘bush tomato’. The bush tomato (Solanum centrale) is one of the first plants to fruit after rain in Central Australia. That’s the kind of knowledge that isn’t told in weather forecasts, it relies on local ecological knowledge.”

Source: Charles Darwin University, School for Social and Policy Research (

PrimaryConnections Indigenous Perspectives

The PrimaryConnections team is pleased to announce the completion and launch of the PrimaryConnections Indigenous Perspectives website. 


The website includes
The Indigenous Perspectives Framework with information and resource links
Indigenous Perspectives curriculum links for the suite of PrimaryConnections units (excluding Its electrifying, Light fantastic and Spot the difference)
A professional learning module
  Links to each chapter of the Connecting Minds DVD, and
The Indigenous Perspectives pilot study research report: Small Study – Big Success Story.

PrimaryConnections sincerely thanks all those who contributed to the consultation and development of the PrimaryConnections Indigenous Perspectives website, and The Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations who funded the project. We hope that teachers will find the web resources helpful and practical to support effective science and literacy learning for all students – Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

NOTE: The ‘look and navigation’ for the website will be updated soon– this will happen in conjunction with an upgrade of the Australian Academy of Science website.

Budj Bim World Heritage Symposium
Gunditjmara Country, Southwest Victoria, Australia
Tuesday 16 Wednesday 17 & Thursday 18 June 2009

The Budj Bim World Heritage Symposium will convene on the 16, 17 and 18 June
2009 in Portland, Victoria to facilitate and advance the nomination of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape (NHL) towards World Heritage Listing by the United Nations Education Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The nomination of the Budj Bim NHL for World Heritage Listing is priority of the Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project (LCSDP). The LCSDP was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation to sustainably develop the Mt Eccles lava flow landscape and wetlands into a major national heritage park.

We have now reached an important time where we prepare ourselves for the long and challenging path towards nominating the Budj Bim NHL for World Heritage Listing. A vital tool to make this happen is the Budj Bim World Heritage Symposium.

The Budj Bim World Heritage Symposium will bring together the stories, knowledge and science of the landscape to enhance the support of the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments and for the consideration of UNESCO through the World Heritage List assessment process.

For more information download Symposium Programme of visit Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project.



Carbon Guide for Northern Indigenous Australians by UNU-IAS and NAILSMA

International Journal of Environmental & Science Education

The latest issue of International Journal of Environmental & Science Education has now been released and you may access all journal content freely from the web site:

Science, Worldviews and Education
Michael R. Matthews (ed.). (2009). Science,
and Education. Springer.

Science, Worldviews and Education is an important and timely theme as many national and provincial education authorities are requiring that students learn about the Nature of Science (NOS), and that they learn about the broader historical and cultural contexts of science and its practice.

Questions about science and worldviews have had a long history. The Galilean revolution, the Darwinian revolution, and the Einsteinian revolution were all associated with profound cultural, religious and philosophical transformations and debates. The European Enlightenment was the first such major impact.

Globalisation and the science-based industrialization of many non-Western societies, with their own religious traditions and worldviews, make urgent the understanding of science and its inter-relation with worldviews, and for the development of informed and appropriate science education. (Flier)

IHPST Newsletter
The May issue of the IHPST newsletter is now available on the web at

1.    Science & Education Latest Number (Vol.18 No.5)

2.    IHPST Tenth International Conference, June 2009

3.    Science & Education Journal Report

4.    Journal Special Issue: Pseudoscience in Society and Classrooms

5.    Anthology: Science, Worldviews and Education

6.    HPS&ST and NOS Course Outlines and Materials

7.    World History of Science Online project

8.    Darwinian Celebrations

9.    Teaching Evolution: Theoretical and Pedagogical Issues, GEITONAS School, Athens, 7-8 November 2009

10.   Community Web Portal for Science and Mathematics Knowledge

11.   XXIII International Congress of History of Science and Technology, 26 - 31 July, 2009, Budapest, Hungary

12.   5th Greek Conference, History, Philosophy &Teaching of the Natural Sciences, University of Cyprus, Nicosia,  11-14 June 2009

13.   HOPOS Conference June 24 - 27, 2010, Budapest

14.   Opinion

15.   Book Notes: Steven Johnson, The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America, 2009; Peter Fensham Defining an Identity: The Evolution of Science Education as a Field of Research, 2004

16.   Current Research

17.   Publications for Sale

18.   Coming Conferences

19.   IHPST Executive

20.   IHPST Graduate Students

21.   IHPST Email List

22.   Newsletter Items

Conference paper

The following paper is to be presented at the 3rd International Conference on Interdiscipilary Social Science in July. For more information contact the first author. 

Hmalan Hunter-Xenie, Desleigh Dunnett, Otto Bulmaniya Campion, Cherry Daniels, Dean Yibarbuk, Kelvin Leitch, Stephen T.Garnett and Bevyline Sithole. (2009). ARPNet: Creating avenues for Aboriginal people in north Australia to be involved in research.


Existing spaces to involve lay people in communities in research have been woefully inadequate and in some cases non existent. Forms of involvement have ranged from informing to research assistantships most which undervalue the role and potential contribution by lay people. When projects have tried to increase lay people’s participation in research, questions have been raised that question our conception of science and the practice of science. Existing case studies around the world show that there is much to be gained from increasing lay people’s participation in research, from understanding the nuances in speech, to appreciating the complexity of the situations that research takes place. In Aboriginal Australia, the exercise of increasing lay people’s participation in research while widely applauded is still obstructed by multiple layers of gatekeeping and institutional inertia within the research establishment. Research is a political act which must necessarily shift and engage lay people if it is to address their concerns, interests and priorities. This presentation looks at a number of case studies of lay people’s involvement in research in northern Australia. In particular, the presentation presents views and perceptions of some of the Aboriginal people who have participated in research. The paper presents some of the key conditions required to achieve greater and more meaningful participation.


ANZCIES 2009 (37th annual conference)

Entering the Age of an Educational Renaissance: Ideas for unity of purpose or further discord?

 24 ­ 27 November 2009

University of New England, Armidale, NSW (AUSTRALIA)

ANZCIES cordially invites you and your colleagues to join us for an exciting four-day conference to be held on the campus of the University of New England (Australia) from 24-27 November 2009.

The theme for ANZCIES 2009 is Entering the Age of an Educational Renaissance:  Ideas for unity of purpose or further discord?  It is designed in response to the ever-increasing needs to advance our understanding of globalisation, regionalisation, and localisation issues related to education.

The conference will provide a venue for academic scholars, practitioners, and students alike to network and actively engage in robust discussion and debate. The Call for Papers is currently available online at:


University of Cuenca, Ecuador    

5-7 January 2010

We are particularly excited about holding this year's Sustainability Conference in Cuenca, Ecuador. Ecuador is a country of remarkable environmental and cultural resources, and has made significant progress in their sustenance.  The Galapagos Islands, for instance, were designated Ecuador's first national park in 1959 and remain one of the most biologically diverse and unique locations in the world.  The Cuenca city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site, continues as a site of picturesque and historically important architecture.

This Conference aims to develop a holistic view of sustainability, in which environmental, cultural and economic issues are inseparably interlinked. It will work in a multidisciplinary way, across diverse fields and taking varied perspectives in order to address the fundamentals of sustainability.

The Conference will includes numerous paper, workshop and colloquium presentations by practitioners, teachers and researchers. We would particularly like to invite you to respond to the Conference Call-for-Papers. Presenters may choose to submit written papers for publication in the fully refereed International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and social Sustainability. If you are unable to attend the Conference in person, virtual registrations are also available which allow you to submit a paper for refereeing and possible publication, as well as access to the Journal.

8th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Education
7 - 10 January 2010
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa / Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel Honolulu 

Hawaii International Conference on Education will be held from January 7 (Thursday) to January 10 (Sunday), 2010 at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel, in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The conference will provide many opportunities for academicians and professionals from education related fields to interact with members inside and outside their own particular disciplines. Cross-disciplinary submissions with other fields are welcome.

Sponsored by:
Pepperdine University - Graduate School of Education and Psychology
University of Louisville - Center for Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods
New Horizons in Education - The Journal of Education, Hong Kong Teachers' Association
California State University, East Bay - Educational Leadership Program

Website address: 
Email address: 

Submit your paper/proposal by using our online submission system! To use the system, and for detailed information about submitting see:


This is mostly a summary of upcoming conferences. More details may have been given above or in previous bulletins as shown. A web-based contact is usually included. Inclusion of conferences in this list is not to be read as an endorsement of the conference.


June 2009

2-5 June: Seventh International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities. Beijing, China (Dec08)

15-18 June: Ninth International Conference on Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, Riga, Latvia  (Aug08)

16-18 June: Budj Bim World Heritage Symposium, Gunditjmara Country, Portland, Southwest Victoria, Australia (Jun09)

24-28 June: IHPST Tenth International Conference, University of Notre Dame, Indiana (April09)

24-26 June: Learning Progressions in Science (LeaPS) Conference, Iowa City, IA (April09)

July 2009

1-4 July: 40th Australasian Science Education Reseach Association conference (ASERA), Deakin University Waterfront Campus, Geelong, Victoria.

1-4 July: Sixteenth International Conference on Learning, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, (Feb09)

4-7 July: CONASTA58, "Science Education - a Bridge to the Future", Launceston, Tasmania ( (Dec08)

5-12 July: NAIDOC Week (Australia)

8-11 July: Fourth International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, University of Athens, Athens, Greece (Dec08)

28-31 July: Fourth International Conference on the Arts in Society, Venice, Italy  (Dec08)

August 2009

7-11 August: GARMA Festival, Nhulunbuy, NT (April09)

31 August - 4 September: European Science Education Research Association Conference, Istanbul, Turkey (Oct08)

October 2009

1-2 October: UniServe Science Annual Conference, University of Sydney (April09)

21-23 October: 1st East Asian Association for Science Education, "Science Education for Tomorrow: Voices of East Asia", Taiwan. (Dec09)

November 2009

1-3 November: ICASE Asian Symposium XI, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin, P.R.China (April09)

10-12 November:
Third International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (CoSMEd) 
2009. RECSAM, Penang (Feb09)

24-26 November: 2nd International Science Education Conference (ISEC 2009) Science Education: Shared Issues, Common Future National Institute of Education, Singapore. (April09)

24 ­ 27 November: ANZCIES 2009 Entering the Age of an Educational Renaissance: Ideas for unity of purpose or further discord? University of New England, Armidale, NSW (AUSTRALIA) (Jun09)


January 2010

5-7 January: Sixth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, University of Cuenca, Ecuador (Jun09)

7-10 January: 8th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Education,Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa / Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel Honolulu  (Jun09)

9-11 January: Third World Universities Forum, Davos, Switzerland (April09)

March 2010

20-24 March: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual conference, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA

June 2010

28 June – 2 July: ICASE World Conference 2010, Tartu, Estonia (Oct08)

July 2010

Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), University of Newcastle (NSW). Dates and venue to be announced.


April 2011

2-6 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual conference, Orlando FA, USA


March 2012

24-28 March: National Association for Research in Science Teaching annual conference, Indianapolis IN, USA

Last updated: 1 June 2009